*EDITORIAL* The Purpose of ‘Skeds’

DXpedition ops are always bombarded by “sked” requests’ and, over the years, I’ve satisfied many such requests during my ‘rare’ or ‘most wanted’ dx adventure.

The term “sked” is shortened version of the word ‘schedule’.

In the context of 11m or Ham radio, a “sked” is a pre-arranged or scheduled contact between one or more radio ops.

It refers to a QSO schedule which is a set date, time, frequency, and mode where ops will meet to make a contact.

In my opinion, the best way to coordinate a “sked” is via instant messaging (e.g. Facebook).

If, at the appointed time, the frequency is busy then it’s a simple matter to arrange a new frequency via instant messaging.

The next best medium is via email, although it’s ‘asynchronous’, meaning the delay between emails can make a settling on a date, time and frequency for a possible QSO more difficult.

Where “skeds” get a bad name is when they’re used to complete contacts and, although I’ve seen it done by others (e.g. on cluster message boards), I’ll never discuss signal reports via Messenger to help solidify a contact.

Instead, the exchange (typically call sign and report) required to complete a contact must be made over the air.

To do otherwise, in my opinion, is only cheating yourself and the station trying to call you.  It’s also unethical.

DA-RC Members will confirm that a radio “sked” is an extremely useful and productive way to acquire challenging or rare DX contacts.

The practice also assists DXpedition operators to achieve certain objectives.

Most ‘“sked” opportunities I offer are with DXpedition Sponsors as a way of saying thank you for their financial support.

I figure if they’ve outlaid money to help ensure my dx adventure is a success then they deserve every possible opportunity to work me.

It’s also a reason why some guys elect to sponsor an activity — i.e. for the privilege of a “sked”.

On this note, nothing is more gratifying for me than working a DXpedition sponsor.

Particularly if it’s done so via a “sked”.

And, personally, I work extremely hard to ensure as many sponsors as possible are added to my log.

Outside of rewarding sponsors for their support, there are other motivations for a DXpedition station to organise “skeds”.

These are some…

1.  Reconnect with Family

Long periods away from home mean that sometimes a dx adventurist might wish to speak with family members.

If the family home has a station intact then this is a fantastic way of checking in with the YL and kids.

If not then the family can arrange to be at a local OM’s shack for the ‘hookup’.

2.  To Communicate with Friends

Nothing is better than being able to work radio friends, including fellow Club members, from a remote dxstination and “skeds” are a super way of making it happen.

Relying on friends being able to break into a pile up to work them, though, is unreliable.

And even if they do manage to have their callsign heard, stopping the pile up while you have a short QSO with them will upset the guys waiting on the side.

Far better it is to organise a “sked” where you can say hi and add them to the log without all the pressure.

And if there’s heavy QRM or QRN then you can at least spend a bit of time sifting through it to pull their signal out.

A “sked” with friends during a dx adventure is also a great way of breaking the monotony of calling “CQ DX” or fleeting 5 second QSOs.

3.  DXpedition Accessibility

On 11m, the International Call Frequency is 27.555 MHz USB and a working frequency is usually between 27.600 MHz and 27.500 MHz.

Not every op has access to frequencies (e.g. transceiver limitations) or choose to operate outside their country’s legal allocation though.

Some DA-RC members in Australia and the USA, for example, patrol frequencies inside the 26.965 MHz — 27.405 MHz range.

So, for any DXpedition station QRV outside of this scope it’s necessary to organise a “sked” — i.e. on a channel 1-40 where a contact can be achieved — in order to work them; or at the very least, give them a chance to do so.

4.  Test Propagation

Sometimes “skeds” are arranged to test propagation to specific areas.

If the “sked” is successful then it can open the door to many other contacts once word gets out (e.g. on cluster) that conditions are open.

The DXpedition op will also know where to direct his antenna.

In the days of modern technology (e.g. instant messaging such as Whatsapp, IMO, WeChat, Facebook, etc.) “skeds” are becoming more and more popular.

Not only are they a magnificent way for the “small pistol” to work a rare or most wanted DX station, but they also enable a dxpedition team to satisfy a number of different purposes.

These include, but aren’t limited to, rewarding dxpedition sponsors, reconnecting with family and friends back home, making the DX Station accessible to others and testing prop for potential beam headings.

73 de Darren, 43DA001